CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 33. . . .April 30, 2010.
A Traveller’s History of Canada.
Robert Bothwell. Illustrated by Peter Geissler.
London, UK: Cassell & Co. (Distributed in Canada by Codasat Canada Ltd.), 2001.
220 pp., pbk., $19.95.
Canada-Description and travel.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
At home the politicians did their best to feed the war with draft after draft of recruits and when the recruits dried up in 1917, with conscripts. Conscription proved intensely divisive in Canada, because French Canadians increasingly saw this war as not their war. Appeals to their French blood fell on deaf ears, for France was nothing more than a distant memory and, to a Catholic population, a country lamentably afflicted by atheism—worse than the English Canadians, who were after all Protestants.
A Traveller’s History of Canada is intended as a guide for visitors to Canada. It is an excellent introduction to the country’s history, written by one of Canada’s foremost historians, and could be used as a textbook. Robert Bothwell is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. He has written over a dozen history books, including (along with William Kilbourn) C. D. Howe, a biography of Canada’s Minister of Munitions and Supply during the Second World War.
A Traveller’s History of Canada is historically accurate, as one would expect from an author of Boswell’s reputation. It is also impartial in its treatment of historical figures as shown in these excerpts. “Macdonald was either a brilliant Conservative statesman or a hopeless, unprincipled, Tory drunk…..(there was evidence for both views). Brown, the Liberal leader, was either a local patriot….or a desperate Protestant bigot. (Again, there was evidence to support either case.)” It is also filled with interesting historical trivia. Quebec, for example, was the Algonkian name for ‘the river narrows.’ Quebec City, the first permanent French settlement in North America, is located at that spot.
A Traveller’s History of Canada has an index and a number of teaching aids. These include lists of the provincial premiers, Governors General of Canada, and Prime Ministers of Canada. Since the book was published in 2001, the lists are out-of-date. The list of Ontario’s premiers ends with Mike Harris and that of the Governors General with Adrienne Clarkson. The lists of Lieutenant Governors end long before the 21st century. That for New Brunswick ends at 1866, and for Ontario at 1841. If such lists are to have meaning, they should be current or not included at all.
The Historical Gazetter at the end of the book acts as a small encyclopedia providing important information on Canada’s provinces. The section on British Columbia, for example, gives a brief history of the capital city, Victoria. There is also a Chronology of Major Events from 14, 000 BC and a brief bibliography, both of which help to make A Traveller’s History of Canada an even more useful reference book.
A Traveller’s History of Canada is illustrated throughout with many functional black and white drawings and historical maps. The drawings, mostly of important historical events or people, are very well done and add greatly to the book’s appeal. For example, those for whom Canadian history is a new subject are not likely to forget the name of the country’s first Prime Minister after seeing Geissler’s excellent portrayal.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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